You can rob a bank without leaving a house these days. Who needs stocking masks, guns and get-away cars? If you are a computer whizz-kid, you could grab your first million armed with nothing more dangerous than a personal computer (PC), a telephone and a modem to connect them. All you have to do is dial into the networks that link the computers in large organizations together; type in a couple of passwords and you can rummage about in the information that is stored there to your heart's content.
Fortunately it isn't always quite as easy as it sounds. But, as more and more information is processed on computer, crime seems set to grow.
No one knows exactly how much money is stolen by key-board criminals-banks and other companies tend to be very secretive if it happens to them. It doesn't exactly fill customers with confidence of they think their bank account can be accessed by anyone with a PC!
Some experts believe that only around a tenth of all computer crimes are actually reported.
Most computer crimes are “inside jobs”, where staff with access to the company's computers fiddle with the records. A comparatively small amount are committed by the more glamorous – and headline – grabbing –hackers.
The true hacker, it seems, doesn't t do it for financial gain. The thrill appears to be not in getting rich, but in beating the system.
“It has never been my intention to steal anything”, said Singh, one of the Britain's notorious hackers. “I really see myself as a highly skilled software engineer.” Edward Singh first came to public attention after claiming that he had hacked into American and British government and military computers.
His mission seems to be to prove just how insecure their systems are.
As with everything else, hackers start young in the States. A 12 year-old boy in Detroit was accused of entering a company's credit rating computer and distributing the numbers he found there. His mother told reporters that he spent up to 14 hours on his computer during the weekend. ”He didn't bother me “, she said. “ I figured computers, that's the thing of the day.”
Some years ago, two New York teenagers, one aged 14 and one aged 17, were charged with breaking into a computer system owned by a company that publishes computer magazines. They were alleged to have changed polite recorded greetings to rude messages, added bomb threats and wiped advertisers' orders. Customers linked into the system only to be told that 'Daffy Duck is not available'! The company estimated that the tampering had cost $2.4 million.
Prevention is probably easier than detection, and many companies now spend lots of time and money devising programs using passwords and codes. Of course, all this is no use at all if computer users tell each other their passwords.
There are plenty of software companies who specialise in writing software that make computers hacker-proof. One company in the States set out to prove that its system can defeat hackers by asking over 2000 of them to try to hack in. The hackers were given two weeks to discover the secret message stored on two PCs in offices in New York and San Francisco. The message reads: ‘The persistent hunter who wins his prize sooner or later becomes the hunted.” But not one hacker managed it.
TEXTS FOR BACKGROUND READING
Top 10 craziest computer hacks
Getting hacked can be a very scary experience. Though some computer hacks are totally harmless, others can be devastating and can cause irreparable damage. With that in mind, here, we present our list of the top 10 craziest computer hacks of all time. Check out part one below, and stay tuned for part two, coming soon!
Number Ten: Target.In 2013, every single Target store in the United States was hacked (for the record, there are 1,797). More than 40 million people’s credit card information was stolen, and another 70 million people on top of that had other personal information (address, phone numbers, etc.) stolen. The hackers were able to get away with it by installing malware that stored the information of every single credit card that was swiped inside a Target store.
Number Nine: Sony’s Playstation Network.Sony’s Playstation network was very badly hacked in 2011. Approximately 77 million accounts were hacked, and lots of personal information was stolen. Sony was subsequently criticized for the lack of security it provided in its Playstation system, and the total cost of recovering from the hack was estimated to be $171 million. The Playstation network was offline for a whopping 23 days as a result of this hack.
Number Eight: The Office of Personnel Management.The government has what’s called the Office of Personnel Management, and it was hacked in 2015. Not very much is known about this hack, but it is especially scary because it’s part of the federal government, and so the anti-hacking software should be stronger than anywhere else in the United States.
Number Seven: Ashley Madison.The Ashley Madison hack was one of the most publicized hacks of 2015. The hackers were able to acquire information about nearly every use on Ashley Madison, and they broadcast more than 25 gigabytes of data to the public as a result. Some users sued Ashely Madison for up to $151 million due to home life damage, ironically (Ashley Madison is a website for people in relationships to pursue extramarital affairs).
Number Six: Albert Gonzalez.Albert Gonzalez is the mastermind behind a two-year hack from 2005 to 2007 in which he stole more than 170 million people’s credit card information. Gonzales was able to steal information from within internal networks, and it is rumored that he became so rich he complained about having to count $340,000 by hand. Gonzales was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2010. Stay tuned for part two of our list of the top 10 computer hacks of all time, coming soon!